In a criminal case, there are several things a defendant must do to strengthen his case and give himself a good chance at an acquittal. One of these things is reducing the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. One way to do that is to introduce previous statements that the state’s witness made that are contrary to what the witness stated on the stand at trial. In one recent sex crime case from Montgomery County, the defendant obtained a new trial on appeal after the trial judge in his case improperly refused to allow him to put on evidence of prior inconsistent statements made by one of the state’s key witnesses.
The defendant on trial in this case was a tattoo artist in Damascus, Maryland. In November 2013, he tattooed a 19-year-old customer, who requested a large tattoo across her inner thigh, outer thigh, and right hip area. To accommodate the process, the woman removed her pants but was still wearing a bikini bottom. In the course of tattooing the woman, the man allegedly penetrated the woman sexually with his finger.
The teen’s incident was not the first instance of alleged misconduct by this artist. A 21-year-old customer accused the man of penetrating her with his finger while tattooing her. The state sought to try the man in one trial for the alleged crimes committed against a total of four women.
The defendant asked the court to sever the charges, meaning that the state would be required to hold separate trials for the alleged crimes committed against each victim. Severing charges and limiting a trial to the alleged crimes committed against one victim can be an extremely important part of your defense. For example, without severing the charges, this man would have faced a trial in which multiple different women would accuse him of touching them inappropriately while he tattooed them. This, as the defense attorney pointed out, could inspire “latent hostility” within the jurors and lead them to convict based solely on the sheer volume of the accusations, rather than the strength of the prosecution’s actual evidence.
The state, in pursuing the alleged crimes committed against the teen, called another alleged victim as a witness. This other woman was allowed to testify because her testimony was “a probative, clear, and convincing recitation of an encounter” similar to what the teen claimed happened to her. Once the state brought the other customer to the stand, the defense sought to enter evidence that the other alleged victim had, at one point, stated that she was unsure if a penetration had occurred and also wasn’t certain the defendant’s contact with her genital area was intentional. She allegedly used the word “accident” at one point to describe the contact.
The trial judge did not allow the defense to put on this evidence. That ruling was one of the centerpieces of the defendant’s appeal after his conviction. That appeal was successful. The trial judge made an error in refusing to allow the defense to put on its proof about the other alleged victim’s prior inconsistent statement. Prior inconsistent statement evidence can be very valuable to a defense, since it can significantly diminish the credibility of a prosecution witness in the eyes of the jury. While the other alleged victim would have also been given an opportunity to explain or refute her prior inconsistent statement to the jury, the defense should have been allowed to put that prior inconsistent statement into evidence.
As a defendant, it is your right to put on the most zealous defense possible. A skilled criminal defense attorney can be instrumental in making sure that happens. Experienced Maryland assault defense attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has been defending the accused for many years and is ready to help you or your loved one with your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
More blog posts:
Baltimore Man’s Conviction Overturned Due to Trial Court’s Refusal to Allow Him to Confront Interpreters, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, June 8, 2016
Maryland Court Denies Motion to Suppress – Affirms Finding of Probable Cause, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, Jan. 12, 2016